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Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk Search and Rescue Helicopter

By: Army Veteran

The HH-60G Pave Hawk is the U.S. Air Force’s only dedicated combat search and rescue helicopter. Few other helicopters are capable of penetrating heavily contested airspace or extreme weather conditions and snatching downed aircrews back from the jaws of death.

In between combat deployments the HH-60G is busy saving lives in other missions. Missions like: civil search and rescue, medical evacuation, disaster response, humanitarian supply assistance, security cooperation/aviation advising, NASA space flight support, and joint service rescue command and control.

HH-60G rescue mission
Members of the 33rd Rescue Squadron fly an HH-60G Pave Hawk at Osan Air Base, South Korea, Oct. 20, 2012. The rescue squadrons participated in an air show to help highlight the relationship between the U.S. service members and South Korea through public demonstrations of military equipment and personnel.
Staff Sgt. Sara Csurilla, U.S. Air Force
HH-60G conducting amphibious rescue
An HH-60G Pave Hawk from the 33rd Rescue Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Japan, performs a rope-ladder recovery with Airmen from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron during an amphibious operations exercise Sept. 22, 2015, off the west coast of Okinawa, Japan. Special tactics team Airmen are organized, trained, and equipped to conduct special operations core tasks during high-risk combat operations.
Senior Airman John Linzmeier, U.S. Air Force

Unique Accessories

Derived from the US Army’s famous Black Hawk utility helicopter, the Pave Hawk is a heavily modified version with many customized long-endurance and search and rescue features. Some of the most impressive are housed in the advanced communications and navigation suite. This combines networked inertial navigation, GPS and Doppler navigation systems. In addition to the standard UHF radio nets, the communications setup provides satellite, secure voice, and Have Quick tactical net compatibility. Most HH-60Gs also have an over-the-horizon “tactical internet” terminal to receive real-time updates on the mission or enemy threat posture.

HH-60G Amphibious Rescue Mission over Boat
A 55th Rescue Squadron HH-60G Pavehawk helicopter hovers above a skiff to hoist critically burned sailors May 5, 2014, 600 nautical miles off the Pacific Coast of Mexico. The pararescuemen transported the injured sailors to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where they were transferred to a HC-130J Combat King II that flew them to the University of California, San Diego, Calif., regional burn unit.
Staff Sgt. Adam Grant, U.S. Air Force


Standard Pave Hawk mission gear includes internal auxiliary fuel tanks and a retractable in-flight refueling probe. Also, it includes anti-ice system for the engine/rotor blades and a cargo hook capable of sling loading 8,000 pounds. In addition to the underbelly mounted cargo hook, HH-60Gs have a side-loading hoist capable of rapidly lifting a 600-pound load from a 200-foot hover height. The onboard Personnel Locating System is compatible with several NATO survival radio types. It automatically furnishes range and bearing information to locate survivors. To simplify air transport and ship launching operations, the rotor blades on all HH-60Gs can fold over one another.


The Pave Hawk also has several subtle but powerful improvements over the Black Hawk to enhance combat survivability. The first is a fully automatic flight control system augmented by forward looking infrared radar so the pilot can focus more on what’s going on outside the bird. For self-defense, HH-60Gs are equipped with a radar-warning threat receiver, infrared missile jammers and a flare/chaff dispensing countermeasure system. The pair of 7.62 mm miniguns or .50-caliber machine guns can be manually fired by gunners or remotely controlled by the flight crew.

HH-60G desert rescue mission
A U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter carrying combat search and rescue Airmen approaches a landing zone during an exercise Aug. 21, 2010, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The exercise tested the rescue squadron’s ability to provide medical aid to U.S. and coalition forces.
Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz, U.S. Air Force

Guardian Angels

Since introduction in 1982, Pave Hawks have rescued dozens of lost and injured personnel. They’ve delivered thousands of tons of humanitarian supplies to remote areas ravaged by natural disasters. During the Persian Gulf War, Pave Hawks routinely penetrated hostile airspace to conduct combat search and rescue operations for coalition aircrews lost in western Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Persian Gulf, without losing a single aircraft. Pave Hawks also served closely with the special operations command. A specialty was evacuating SEAL’s and other operators wounded in deep penetration strikes far behind the lines.

See Pave Hawk Specifications

Primary Function: Personnel recovery in hostile conditions and military operations other than war in day, night or marginal weather.
Contractor: United Technologies/Sikorsky Aircraft Company
Power Plant: Two General Electric T700-GE-700 or T700-GE-701C engines
Thrust: 1,560-1,940 shaft horsepower, each engine
Rotor Diameter: 53 feet, 7 inches (14.1 meters)
Length: 64 feet, 8 inches (17.1 meters)
Height: 16 feet, 8 inches (4.4 meters)
Weight: 22,000 pounds (9,900 kilograms)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 22,000 pounds (9,900 kilograms)
Fuel Capacity: 4,500 pounds (2,041 kilograms)
Payload: dependent upon mission
Speed: 184 mph (159 knots)
Range: 504 nautical miles
Ceiling: 14,000 feet (4,267 meters)
Armament: Two 7.62mm or .50 caliber machine guns
Crew: Two pilots, also one flight engineer and one gunner
Unit Cost: $40.1 million (FY11 Dollars)
Initial operating capability: 1982
Inventory: Active force, 67; ANG, 17; Reserve, 15 (2016)